Open SDK enables live camera switching and lighting for virtual production from your iPhone

May 5, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Open SDK enables live camera switching and lighting for virtual production from your iPhone

May 5, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It’s not often that a company opens up their products for the world to develop for and communicate with. There have been a few companies to do it, such as Blackmagic Design, GoPro and DJI, although it’s still quite rare for it to happen. Many companies are very protective of their intellectual property, and they want to lock you into coming back to them when you need more capability.

Accsoon has taken the opposite approach, releasing a free Software Development Kit (SDK) for their new Accsoon SeeMo (buy here). Announced last October, the Accsoon SeeMo is an unassuming little box to let you use your iPhone or iPad as a field monitor for your camera. The SDK opens up a whole world of possibilities for developers to expand that capability. We stopped by the Accsoon booth at NAB 2023 to learn more.

What is the Accsoon SeeMo?

The Accsoon SeeMo is essentially a small box that lets you connect your camera or other HDMI output device to your iPhone or iPad to use it as a field monitor. It’s a video capture device for iOS/iPadOS devices. You get the usual array of field monitor tools, such as waveforms, vectorscopes, focus peaking, zebra stripes, etc., but it also offers other capabilities. You can live stream your camera’s view straight from your iPhone or iPad and even record the HDMI feed on your mobile device.

The hardware itself offers a lot of potential opportunities for new and unique features. It’s really only limited by the software. That’s not to say that the Accsoon apps are limited or bad. They’re just designed for specific purposes, and that’s the jobs they perform. The rest of its potential stays hidden away until Accsoon finds the time and resources to add more capabilities.

But no matter how much Accsoon works on their software, they don’t know all of the features that everybody needs. And even if they do, trying to cram all of those features into a single app would make it a nightmare for the vast majority of their users. After all, nobody wants a bloated, slow and buggy application that’s trying to do too many things when all they want to do is see a larger, higher-quality version of the image on their camera’s LCD.

This is where the Accsoon Software Development Kit steps in.

What is an SDK?

An SDK, or Software Development Kit, is essentially a bridge between third-party developers and, in this case, a device on the other end. It allows those third-party developers to communicate with the device without having to understand all of its inner workings and without the company having to release their proprietary technology into the wild. It makes it easy for those developers to take advantage of the benefits of the hardware.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s a bit like online shopping vs shopping in the real world. Online, you only need to go to a website, add the product you want to your cart, pay for it, and it shows up at your door sometime later – sometimes it’s a few hours, sometimes a few days. When shopping in the real world, you must put in much more effort. For a start, you need to get dressed so you can leave the house. You need to walk to your vehicle, drive to somewhere that has the appropriate shops, and perhaps look at four or five shops before finding what it is that you want. Then, you have to deal with people getting in your way, slow checkouts, and getting back home. Why do you think online shopping has become so popular?

Using an SDK is like the online shopping side of things. You send a few commands to the SDK, and the SDK does all the hard work for you (finding the product on the shelves, packing it, printing the label, giving it to the courier and sending it on its way) of talking to the hardware. Without the SDK, you’d have to reverse engineer how the device worked at a fundamental hardware level – which is often impossible – and then, at a bare minimum, write all of the functions yourself that already exist in the SDK. You might (usually) find that to change the device’s behaviour, you must rewrite its firmware completely from scratch.

As with real-world shopping, not having an SDK is a bit of a headache, to say the least.

SDKs are a great way to allow third parties some access to your hardware and software without giving them full access to your hardware and software in order to add functionality.

How does this help the Accsoon SeeMo?

In our chat with Accsoon, we looked at several apps that are already changing and extending the functionality of the Accsoon SeeMo. We spoke with Cinematographer Alister Chapman, who showed us how he uses the Accsoon SeeMo to instantly adjust the lighting on subjects when filming on virtual sets. In order to have your subject look like they’re really standing in that virtual set, the lighting on them needs to match the scene behind them.

As the scene changes, the lighting will naturally change. This includes the light hitting the subject. If your scene changes without the light on your subject changing, it becomes quite obvious to the camera that the subject isn’t really there. The Accsoon SeeMo, in conjunction with an iPad running Chroma Link, can monitor specific pixels in the view and automatically update the subject’s lighting to ensure it always matches the background in real-time.

For the moment, this functionality is only available for Prolycht LED lights, as it’s a Prolycht app. But, thanks to the API, similar apps can also be written to provide this functionality with lights from other manufacturers, including Nanlite, Aputure or Godox.

Multi-cam live stream switching

We also spoke with Nick Mattingly, Co-founder and CEO of Switcher. Switcher created Switcher Studio, a multi-camera live streaming solution. Until now, the Switcher Studio app has been limited to only using iPhone or iPad cameras. Now, thanks to the new Accsoon SDK, it’s able to pull in multiple HDMI cameras and other sources using the Accsoon SeeMo. This means you’re able to get multi-cam live streaming, with real-time video switching capabilities straight from your iPad or iPhone. And you can stream straight to platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook.

This solution actually beats out products such as the Blackmagic Atem Mini series, the YoloBox Pro and many other devices, allowing you to use up to nine cameras in total. And because the Accsoon SeeMo works with just about any HDMI device, you can use pretty much any camera and stream straight from your mobile device. And you get all of the usual overlays and features you’d expect from any hardware-based video switcher.

Of course, you’ll need multiple Accsoon SeeMo devices and multiple iPhones and/or iPads to have all the cameras linked up. Still, the Accsoon SeeMo works with everything from the iPhone 8 onwards, and there are plenty of great deals on older iPhones these days if all you’re using them for is mobile video capture and streaming.

Price and Availability

The Accsoon SeeMo SDK is available for free, and it’s available now, but it isn’t available to download from the website. If you want to have a play with it, you’ll need to contact Accsoon to get hold of it. To find out more about it and for contact details, see the Accsoon website.

DIYP’s coverage of NAB 2023 is sponsored by Sennheiser, Zhiyun, B&H, and SmallRig

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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